MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As students head back to school, school safety is on the top of mind for parents and educators.
“From 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. you’re concerned that everybody’s where they’re supposed to be. That everybody is safe and taken care of," said Ryan Hollingsworth with the School Superintendents of Alabama.
Money for school safety improvements
State lawmakers originally created the Advancement and Technology Fund for schools to update technology tools, for deferred maintenance and for teacher development. Back in 2018, lawmakers began allowing local school systems to tap into that money for school safety improvements.
“We have some schools that are new and that were built with that. Others are very old," Hollingsworth said. "We still have tremendous need across the state to get our schools where they need to be from a safety standpoint.”
The State Department of Education needs to approve a school district’s application on how they plan to use that money. As of when this article was published, 68 percent of the schools that applied for the money asked to use it for school safety, according to the School Superintendents of Alabama. About 103 districts have applied for the money so far.
The amount of money in the technology fund increased this year to $198 million for K-12 schools to pull from beginning in September. Back in 2018, the fund had $41 million for those schools in 2018.
Number of security personnel in schools
The School Superintendents of Alabama surveyed over 1,400 schools across the state back in August. Officials say 619 schools did not have full-time school resource officers at schools.
According to the Alabama Department of Education, 375 schools did not have any security personnel back in August 2018.
State lawmakers wanted more armed security personnel in schools. They passed legislation easing the requirements for some retired law enforcement officers to work as a school resource officers. The law requires retired law enforcement have 25 years of law enforcement experience, have completed active shooter prevention training approved by ALEA, have finished a firearms certification course, and have been trained to use non-lethal weapons.
If those standards are met, a local school board can allow a retired officer to carry a gun in school as a school resource officer. The local school board would make the decision on whether to hire the person.
School safety training plans
State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said the department is partnering with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency for one of the state’s most comprehensive safety training programs in school history.
“We know a terrorist could walk into any school or church as we’ve recently seen at shopping Malls any day but what we want to make sure of is our schools are prepared as they can be.” said Mackey.
Mackey said there are regional training teams working across the state to make sure each school district understands how to write a school safety plan and make sure the students are as safe as possible. The model of training was adopted from Colorado.